Cash assistance for people hosting Ukrainian refugees ‘is on the cards’
Micheál Martin said the government would consider offering financial support to households in exchange for hosting refugees from Ukraine.
The Taoiseach said the immediate aim was to work through the more than 20,000 accommodation pledges that have been made to the Irish Red Cross. But nothing was ruled out in terms of financial assistance to households now faced with the increase in the cost of living, such as public services, because there were more people in their homes.
The Irish Refugee Council last week urged the government to give holiday home owners €300-400 a month to have their properties used by refugees, fearing that state-booked beds in hotels will soon be exhausted.
On Tuesday, ministers were told that with an average of 580 refugees arriving a day, around 5,000 extra beds will be needed by Easter next weekend to meet demand. Housing shortages are expected within days.
Mr. Martin told the Sunday Independent how household support would be considered.
“Well, nothing has been ruled out in that regard. I think first and foremost what I would like to see is review the existing promises that have been made. I think we need to spend more of resources to this exercise and then go from there,” he said during a visit to Helsinki on Friday.
“Certainly we will be looking at all possibilities around this, particularly in terms of freeing up existing capacity within the existing housing stock.”
The UK government is offering £350 (€420) per month to UK households to host refugees. The Cabinet was told last week that 20,719 offers of accommodation had been made to the Red Cross, but that 60% of these may not be suitable.
Across the Coalition, there are growing fears that space in state-funded or state-provided housing could run out in days, with the number of daily arrivals of refugees fleeing the war exceeding 600 twice the last week. The number of arrivals on Friday had fallen to 432, according to Justice Ministry figures.
The Cabinet was secretly warned last week that the state’s capacity to house Ukrainian refugees was nearly exhausted and that up to 10,000 people may have no housing at all by the end of the month. This will be in addition to those already identified at hotels, bed and breakfasts, guest houses, state facilities and from people who have pledged vacant homes and rooms.
Asked about the UK scheme to pay households £350 a month, Mr Martin said: “We have to take the full implications of such a move because there are potential dangers on this front as well.
“We have taken advice from the Children’s Department in particular and, despite the uniqueness of the huge number of refugees who have entered the country, we must be very careful that everything we do is with a view to protecting all the refugees who come in.”
Mr Martin has faced calls from Louth Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick in the Dáil to provide support to households.
Mr Fitzpatrick said he was approached by families, some of whom had come to the airport to offer accommodation, who now felt isolated without any support.
Heads of families who have taken in refugees would not hesitate to do so again, he said. “But they have very little to no contact with relevant government departments and no support,” the TD said.
On Friday, Mr. Martin acknowledged this point.
“Initially, it was not a monetary issue, but I understand that it is a fair point that MP Fitzpatrick has raised in the Dáil in terms of people experiencing increasing costs as a result; due to protective measures, of the European Union directive, we provide social assistance and income to refugees,” he said.
“Having said that, we will be looking at all of these issues, but the immediate focus will be on delivering on all of these promises and an assessment of what is available and what is not available.”